Tag Archives: San Diego

San Diego therapy dog detects water contamination

It’s just a small news item in the Los Angeles and San Diego newspapers…but it’s another story of how special dogs are – and how they use their detection skills to help humans.

On 26 January 2017, a therapy dog at San Diego Cooperative Charter School in Mountain View wouldn’t drink the water a teacher had poured for it from the classroom sink.

The teacher noticed a sheen on the water, which was tested and initially revealed the substance vinyl chloride.  Subsequent testing has revealed levels of lead some of which exceed health standards.

A district-wide water testing program is underway in all City of San Diego schools.

All because of one keen-nosed therapy dog with discerning tastes!

Source:  LA Times; Voice of San Diego

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Jealousy in dogs is real

Dogs can act jealous (is this really news to most dog owners?).  Well, researchers have taken steps to scientifically prove that jealousy exists.  They undertook this research because researchers studying emotion have argued for years whether jealousy requires complex cognition or that jealousy is a social construct not linked to physiology and psychology the way emotions like fear and anger are…

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, by University of California San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris and former honors student Caroline Prouvost is the first experimental test of jealous behaviors in dogs.

The findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers.

Harris and Prouvost show that dogs exhibit more jealous behaviors, like snapping and pushing at their owner or the rival, when the owner showed affection to what appeared to be another dog (actually a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail). Dogs exhibited these behaviors more than if the same affection was showered on a novel object and much more than when the owner’s attention was simply diverted by reading a book.

“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” Harris said. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

Since there had been no prior experiments on dog jealousy, the researchers adapted a test used with 6-month-old human infants. They worked with 36 dogs in their own homes and videotaped the owners ignoring them in favor of a stuffed, animated dog or a jack-o-lantern pail. In both these conditions, the owners were instructed to treat the objects as though they were real dogs – petting them, talking to them sweetly, etc. In the third scenario, the owners were asked to read aloud a pop-up book that played melodies. Two independent raters then coded the videos for a variety of aggressive, disruptive and attention-seeking behaviors.

Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was interacting with the faux dog (78 percent) as when the owner was attending to the pail (42 percent). Even fewer (22 percent) did this in the book condition. About 30 percent of the dogs also tried to get between their owner and the stuffed animal. And while 25 percent snapped at the “other dog,” only one did so at the pail and book.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

Did the dogs believe the stuffed animal was a real rival? Harris and Prouvost write that their aggression suggests they did. They also cite as additional evidence that 86 percent of the dogs sniffed the toy dog’s rear end during the experiment or post-experiment phase.

“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” Harris said. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

Source:  UCSD media release

DOGTV for the home alone dog

I wish we lived in San Diego, California where DOGTV is currently aired on cable television. There are plans for rolling it out to other cable providers but who knows if it will ever make it to New Zealand?

Since I use relaxation music in my massage practice, I know that dogs respond to certain cadences of music and it makes sense that they are visually stimulated by certain movements and shapes, too.

DOGTV offers special content for a dog’s sense of vision and hearing and aims to support a confident, happy dog, who’s less likely to develop stress, separation anxiety or other related problems.  It seems a must for the home-alone dog, particularly the younger dogs who have energy to spare when you are not able to be home with them.

DOGTV has been recognised by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

If you are not in San Diego, you can subscribe to a streaming online service with prices that start at US$9.99 per month.  Make sure you understand the impact of this on any data caps you have with your internet provider.

Here’s a sample of DOGTV.  Bring your dog over to the screen to watch!